Weather Slows 2 Western Wildfires; New Blazes Start
Firefighters gained ground on two major wildfires in central Washington on Thursday, but lightning storms sweeping over the Pacific Northwest sparked more than 150 new blazes, officials said.
“It looks like we’re in for a long siege,” said Sam Logan of the National Interagency Fire Center.
Most of the new fires in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia were small, but one, the Swamp Creek blaze in eastern Oregon, had grown to at least 34,000 acres in just two days.
Nearly 20,000 men and women, including 3,570 Army, Marine and National Guard personnel, were fighting 26 major blazes and hundreds of small fires in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, California, Utah and Nevada.
Fires covering more than 233,000 acres continue to burn out of control, including more than 159,000 acres in Washington alone, where Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt joined Native Americans fighting a fire on the Yakama reservation.
Cooler weather and higher humidity in Washington’s Cascade Range helped those battling the Tyee Creek fire and the Hatchery Creek Complex fire.
The 105,960-acre Tyee Creek fire had threatened the resort town of Chelan and Lake Chelan’s south shore before beginning to move in a more westerly direction. Its western edge crept to within 11 miles of Leavenworth, which was already under siege by the 26,755-acre Hatchery Creek Complex fire, but was not expected to threaten the town. Fire lines now surround 68% of the Tyee Creek fire and 25% of the Hatchery Creek Complex fire, said Rinee Merritt of the Multi-agency Coordinating Center.
The fires have driven hundreds from their homes, forced the closure of major state highways and destroyed at least 37 houses and more than 75 other structures.